📜 Feature What is considered "rare" these days?

Feature article
Amusingly, musical rarities appear to be bountiful these days. Take a look at any over-caffeinated eBay seller who proclaims, IN ALL CAPS, how rare this record is that they are selling. At Discogs, some sellers also claim to sell "this rare album you don't see much anymore," while I glance over and notice that there are 46 copies for sale from other Discogs sellers. Even some local estate sales want us to rush in to buy up some unfortunate deceased homeowners "old rare vinyl records." For these sellers, the word "rare" is a marketing term, whether they realize they are doing it or not--it implies a sense of urgency, to get buyers to react and make the purchase. It also helps a buyer swallow an overly inflated price. After all, if you don't buy it at today's high price, you may never get to buy it at all!

It's like I've said in the past. If you call everything old "iconic," then nothing stands out as being iconic. Likewise, calling everything "rare" presents us with a glut of similar rarities that end up not being rarities at all.

So, what is rarity?

Those of us who collect or listen to music often fall into our "rarity" niches as we begin exploring an artist's lesser albums, or seeking out artists who we've heard of in passing but have usually never seen many of their recordings. I've pursued my own rarities in the recent past.
  • I leapt from listening to a couple of Tamba 4 records decades ago and took a deep dive into their past, only finally getting ahold of their earliest recordings within the past couple of years, lucking out with pricing on long-out-of-print CDs that kept them sensibly priced, as LPs were nearly impossible to find.
  • I have been buying sealed copies of long-out-of-print records that have never seen a digital reissue. I primarily found sealed versions of all the missing unavailable LPs in my A&M/CTi collection this way.
  • I have also bought records that truly were rare, like the legendary 10-inch Epic record from 1953, Moondog and his Friends. This was before some enterprising person made a poor needledrop of the same record and had it reissued on CD and LP. (For the record, no pun intended, I spent $75 for it about 20 years ago from an eBay seller, at a time when most copies were selling for close to $150. Right place, right time!)
  • A small number of the 12-inch singles I bought in the 70s and 80s are either difficult to find or very expensive to buy.
And I'm sure everyone reading this has their own rarity niches in which they have tracked down and held onto titles that are near and dear to them.

I see rarity in two different ways. There is rarity when the availability of an item is difficult if not almost impossible to find. This is mainly what I mention above. Another form of rarity is related, but refers to artists that very few record buyers have heard of. The George McCurn album on A&M is one I'd consider a rarity, as the only two groups who know about McCurn are fellow A&M collectors who have seen him mentioned here, and those who follow gospel groups from the late 50s who may remember him from The Pilgrim Travelers. Anything by McCurn could be considered a rarity by that token. And there are many artists like him who have recorded one or two albums and fell into obscurity.

What rarities and "scores" have you found over the years?
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
I suppose there should be a distinction as to a rare recording that is not available anywhere else, and a rare pressing of something that, recording-wise, is as common as dirt.

An example of the first would be something like the old Julius Wechter acetate demo recordings. Those are just not readily available anywhere. Another would have been the STONEBONE album only released in Japan - but now it at least got a Record Store day re-press. But at fewer than a couple thousand copies, it's still fairly rare, although more available than before, just due to the fact that very few know about it.

An example of the second type would be Roger Nichols & The Small Circle Of Friends A&M album. The original pressings on LP are few and far between, and a lot are pretty beat up. But thanks to the Japanese and the Brits, there have been numerous re-issues on CD and digital, and anyone who wants a copy can easily find the music readily available. But that doesn't stop some collectors who want a genuine LP on an original pressing.
 

Rudy

¡Que siga la fiesta!
Staff member
Site Admin
Thread Starter
I suppose there should be a distinction as to a rare recording that is not available anywhere else, and a rare pressing of something that, recording-wise, is as common as dirt.
True. There's rare. Then there's rare rare. 😁

And even something that wasn't rare originally that disappeared over time can be considered a rarity. With recording technology, we have issues where original formats pretty much disappeared over the years, in favor of newer formats. My grandmother had a George Gershwin performance on 78 RPM records, and when they were reissued on an LP, she bought that to replace it, as it was a favorite. (And it saved getting up every five minutes to flip a 12-inch 78.) Many of the 78s that sold in large numbers back then have been lost to the ages, but in most cases the performances lived on with LP and CD reissues. Anyone hoping to find an unbroken, not too badly worn 78 of some of those could be in for quite a chase. Many used record dealers won't carry them since they take up a lot of space and rarely sell. Even so, there are probably still a handful of 78s that never were reissued on LP or CD--I have a Perez Prado 78 with two tunes that never have appeared on any of the numerous compilations I have of recordings from that same era (it is on RCA, but out of Mexico or South America, like most of his records from those years).
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
For records I think what’s becoming rare now are the extended dance mixes. There are certain tracks where you have the regular single mix on the standard 7-inch 45 or cassette/CD single, but then the record label issued a disco or dance version, on 12” that’s like 10 minutes long, and those rarely see an album release, even on CD or as a bonus download track.

Of course there are also some albums, especially in foreign countries where the rights maybe switched companies, so there might be a version of an album that was only available for a month or couple of months from the old company, but then the next company’s printing is the common printing because they had the license for 20 years or whatever.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Nice feature. For my nickel -- rarity is an economics term rooted in simple supply and demand logic. The most rare items I have are those LPs or CDs that were issued by artists and whose sales didn't meet label expectations -- and so the album was relatively quickly discontinued. Demand for LPs from artists lost to time is normally far and few between and accordingly sale prices for these white elephants range from give-a-way to three figures...These are the LPs that I fancy the most actually given it's always quite the cat's meow to offer up a truly notable and unknown LP from the 1950s/'60s that becomes a takedown album during a listening session!
 

rockdoctor

Well-Known Member
Rare is a bit of a misnomer as what might be rare in one format may be common in another. As far as lp's go, the mono versions are harder to find than stereo versions. Fool On The Hill would be a good example. I know at least 3-5th Dimension albums had mono releases but I have never seen them but the stereo copies were always available. In another post, Tapestry by Carole King was mentioned by me after seeing it on ebay as "Rare-First Pressing" but I wonder if it truly was a first pressing. It would not matter to me. There is a pressing done by Capitol Records of Tapestry. That pressing to me would be the rarity.
Artists that came and went quickly with only one or two releases might be considered rarities if they were discontinued quickly as mentioned by Rudy in the original posting.
 

Harry

Charter A&M Corner Member
Staff member
Site Admin
Then there are the releases that "shouldn't have been". In the world of Carpenters, there are a few CD releases that happened around the world that weren't supposed to be and it resulted in some "rare" titles with music on them that are common as dirt.

CHRISTMAS PORTRAIT (West German Version) - Though rumored to be somewhat rare, it seems that there are always enough of these to go around. They have the original LP mix of the album and not either the Special Edition or the remix. It features "Ave Maria" without the choir.

TWENTY TWO HITS OF THE CARPENTERS (POCM-1585) - A Japanese "mispress" in that original album mixes pulled from the Remastered Classics were used instead of the remixes as originally planned.

YESTERDAY ONCE MORE (UK-1985) - Pressed in West Germany and released in the UK and Europe, this version of the LP package known as "SING1" was withdrawn as A&M had a new YESTERDAY ONCE MORE due out with fresh remixes. It remains the only digital place to find the original album version of "Those Good Old Dreams" with the original synth part.

There was also an ULTIMATE COLLECTION in the Netherlands that used original mixes. It was quickly withdrawn, but a few years later it was re-released as COLLECTED.
 

Bobberman

Well-Known Member
To me There are several albums that I would consider Rare because they weren't big sellers and went out of print very quickly many A&M albums fall into this category such as Herb Ohta's two A&M releases " A Song for Anna" and "Feelings" ( I have the Latter LP) The Late Carroll O Connor's one off ( with help from Roger Kellaway) "Remembering you" there are many more examples not just A&M but every label has many examples of true rarities of course its all in the eyes and ears of the beholder
 

tomswift2002

Well-Known Member
To me There are several albums that I would consider Rare because they weren't big sellers and went out of print very quickly many A&M albums fall into this category such as Herb Ohta's two A&M releases " A Song for Anna" and "Feelings" ( I have the Latter LP) The Late Carroll O Connor's one off ( with help from Roger Kellaway) "Remembering you" there are many more examples not just A&M but every label has many examples of true rarities of course its all in the eyes and ears of the beholder
Another scarce A&M album is 1989’s Veronique. Only released in Canada with only 10,000 copies pressed. And out of those 10,000, five thousand copies were CD and then the other five thousand were LP’s and cassettes (2,500 each for LP & cassette? Or a different ratio like 1,000 LP and 4,000 cassettes?)
 

rockdoctor

Well-Known Member
Here is another couple of possibilities for rare releases. First, Gilbert O'Sullivan Himself. It was released before the single Alone Again, Naturally. Then it was pulled from the shelves to add the single to the album. Then there is Breakout by The Pointer Sisters. The first release had a song called Nightline on it. Then it was reissued with I'm So Excited added and Nightline was dropped and the selections in a different order. Therefore the first issue of Himself is a true rarity but Breakout probably sold nearly a million copies before it was pulled and re-released. Still, I have not seen a copy of the original Breakout.
 

AM Matt

Forum Undertaker
Have NOT seen Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Off Centre" (early 1981) on Apple iTunes BUT they had that in 2020 when I first starting using Apple iTunes. It is still available from Barnes & Noble BUT it is costly. That album has the album version of the song "What's In A Kiss" which was O'Sullivan's comeback song & also his last swan song in the U.S..
 

rockdoctor

Well-Known Member
Have NOT seen Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Off Centre" (early 1981) on Apple iTunes BUT they had that in 2020 when I first starting using Apple iTunes. It is still available from Barnes & Noble BUT it is costly. That album has the album version of the song "What's In A Kiss" which was O'Sullivan's comeback song & also his last swan song in the U.S..
If it was a comeback, it was not in this area. I never have even heard of that song.
 

AM Matt

Forum Undertaker
Gilbert O'Sullivan's "What's In A Kiss" (original version) went to # 13 (Billboard Adult Contemporary) in April of 1981 & his last swan song in U.S. but did not charted in Billboard's Hot 100. The album "Off Centre" did not chart on Billboard Top 200 Album Charts. Heard the song on WRCI 93.5 FM in Midland, Michigan (former Adult Contemporary station) which changed to WKQZ & became a hard rock station in February of 1986.
 
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